ICAO must urgently inspect SACAA and SA airports

Please find attached English and Afrikaans soundbites by Chris Hunsinger MP.

The DA will write to the chairperson of the parliamentary portfolio committee on transport, Mosebenzi Joseph Zwane, to ask that he request the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to inspect the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) and South African airports as a matter of urgency.

This is after the partial release of a report by the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) of Ethiopia regarding their investigation of the crash of a SACAA aircraft tasked to carry out a calibration flight at the George Aerodome on 23 January 2020 in which all three flight crew members succumbed.

The DA will also request that SACAA release the full report of the investigation as page 56, which contains paragraphs 19 to 30 of the conclusions, was omitted from the released report.

AAIB found a host of irregularities in the operation of the Cessna S550 ZS-CAR, including:

  • ZC-CAR’s Certificate of Airworthiness was invalid at the time of the accident due to the flight data recorder (FDR) not being updated annually;
  • ZC-CAR conducted multiple operations for several months in 2021 without the proper authorization of the Flight Inspection Unit (FIU) in place;
  • There was not sufficient graded evidence that the pilot-in-command (PIC) performed the mandatory unusual altitude recovery training on a simulator;
  • Irregularities in assigning the PIC to the flight;
  • The aircraft did not trigger the recording of all the mandatory parameters on the FDR; and
  • There was no indication of whether the installed Terrain Avoidance Warning System (TAWS) was operational at the time of the crash.

AAIB made the following safety recommendations:

  • SACAA must install FDRs capable of recording all mandatory parameters;
  • The South African Accident and Incident Investigations Division (AIID) must become independent from SACAA “and other entities that could interfere with the conduct of objectivity an investigation and conflict of interest” to ensure full accountability. The DA has advocated this and other critical changes and interventions for many years;
  • An in-depth review of FIU to ensure that operators comply with all requirements and that crew are proficient in unusual attitude recovery according to regulations.

Navigational calibration is crucial for airports and aircraft. Without these measures safety of flight crew and passengers cannot be guaranteed. That SACAA would flaunt vital compliance regulations and standards is unacceptable.

This brings to mind the dangerous SAA alpha-floor event on 24 February 2021 which SAACA seemingly tried to sweep under the rug. Serious questions regarding the safety standards of air crew and other personnel were put under the microscope.

While the AAIB report does not explicitly state that SACAA tried to influence an AIID-investigation, the recommendation that AIID becomes fully independent does indicate that there does seem to be undue influence over investigations.

SACAA’s attitude and growing ineptitude have a big impact on the country’s aviation sector with several airstrips at airports being downgraded due to safety concerns, the direct responsibility of SACAA. Downgraded airports have a major impact on our international aviation status and the flight routes through our country, tourism and the economy.